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Publication | 2021

Drought Resilience Profiles - Southern African Development Community

Approximately one-third of the people in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region live in drought-prone areas. Meteorological drought causes substantial socio-economic hardships, decline in public health, land degradation and biodiversity loss. Drought crop and livestock production in the region, endangers local ecosystems and threatens agriculture-based communities. Over the past 30 years, rainfall has been increasing in the humid tropical zone and declining in the southern African drylands.

Preparedness and Response

Between 2018 and 2019, food insecurity increased by 28% across the region, 7.4% higher than it was during the severe El Niño-induced drought of 2016/17. Roughly 45 million southern Africans were food insecure as the region entered the peak of the lean season from January-March 2020 and a year later, that number increased to 51.3 million people. Back-to-back droughts (in Angola and Madagascar) and erratic rainfall; compounded by COVID-19 (in all SADC countries); displacements due to the growing insecurity related to cattle raiding (in Madagascar); internal conflict (DRC and Mozambique) and political and economic instability (Zimbabwe) contributed to these record-high levels of food insecurity in the region. In 2020/21, around 21.8 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experienced high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above), making it home to the highest number of people in urgent need of be water-abundant humanitarian assistance in the world. The risk of drought occurrences even threatens those countries previously thought to be water-abundant. Several southern African countries lack an objective forecast-based early warning and response mechanism that enables early identification of the onset of drought. Ex-post reactive responses coupled with the lack of anticipatory and preparedness measures focus on crisis management and humanitarian interventions as opposed to building long-term resilience at the household and community level. Generally, they also come at a higher cost to the economy.